Journeying to Nourishment

We were asked by Ethical Consumer Magazine as part of Ethical Consumer week to respond to the following questions. We thought you might be interested in reading our responses to them. Tell us what your thoughts and feelings are about our responses and share some of your own.

Red Rice preparation by T.L.Belson

​Can you tell us a little bit about Community Centred Knowledge and your work?
​Community Centred Knowledge (CCK) is an open collective, which aims to invest in minds and hearts, attitudes and practice, by exploring and repairing the subconscious prejudices, conventions and habits that destructively divide our worlds. Our experience to date has evidenced that our interactive workshops have been impactful because we work with bias to support attitude change. We do not sidestep the existence of individual or collective trauma and dissonance that is widespread throughout society, but rather we take it into account in designing, often together with participants, approaches that can help in developing healing modalities. We support self-exploration and community led research into self-discovery and working towards a solution orientation of the many challenges which beset us on a daily basis, and which often have become institutionalised into ways of socially or culturally expressing ourselves. We recognise that we need to build our capacity to capitalise on the initial impact of this work and to engage more effectively with more hidden parts of the food system to bring about sustainable and equitable change. 

The voices, perspectives and knowledge of communities that are affected ​by lack – and in some ways we all experience lack – ​are a vital contribution to the larger narratives around food​ as nourishment​. To ensure our collective well being, the​se voices must contribute to the formulation of policy and shaping of institutional practice. We offer a pathway for this to happen in ways that also encourage mutual exchange through​ our encouragement of the​ listening to a wide variety of perspectives as part of our journey making. 

We work towards systemic and lasting social change for the better.​ We work towards justice for all through reciprocal action and development of the whole being.​


Can you explain what lies behind the name- Community Centred Knowledge?
​Knowledge is often considered to be predominantly in the domain of ‘experts’ who are not viewed as arising from the community. We contest this in two ways:
Firstly by asserting that everyone comes from a community: from the most grassroots and marginalised in society, all the way through to the most elite and entitled academic ‘expert’ and all those that lie between or surround these ‘types’​. There are ways in which we all have relationships: extractive or not, nurturing or not, with other members of communities of geography or interest. There is benefit in recognising this as a reality.
Secondly by promoting the idea that we all contribute to the stock of knowledge that exists within communities or across society. Knowledge manifests out of everyday experience that may be reflected upon in everyday ways, such as the route to the bus stop or the best place to buy nails. All age groups possess and make regular use of the knowledge that suits their lifestyles and survival or thriving. We often do not surface this knowledge, identifying only that which passes through particular institutions. Lets face it, there is a lot that life teaches us which is not in a school curriculum. Lets value this.

For Ethical Consumer Week 2020, you’re going to be holding a ‘Journey to Nourish’. Can you talk a bit about why you think this journey is important?
​People talk a lot about food​: food sovereignty, food justice, food inequalities, food security and foods in terms of nutrition and diet – and dieting! We understand that foods have histories and people have foodways, food allergies and intolerances and food habits and addictions. We also talk about basic needs, such as shelter, water, clothing and energy, human rights and the fulfillment of human desires for peace, security and an education.
CCK also understands that, as humans, all of these things and more contribute to a sense of being nourished: being in a emotional/spiritual/mental/physical place of feeling that most or all of one’s needs are met and that one is in the position to support the meeting of other’s needs. This is what nourishment means. To be in a Journey to Nourish we play on the word ‘to’ as meaning being en route as well as ‘to become‘. We recognise that we have a deep, human need to be useful in each other’s lives, so we are always Journeying towards meeting that goal of solidarity with others. We are also seeking to optimise our own fulfillment, hence our becoming fully in a state of nourishment. As long as we are alive we can always keep on improving our Journey’s towards meeting these ‘realisations’, so we are always on this Journey. The work of CCK is to shine a torch to brighten another’s path, knowing that it will also illuminate ones own.

A lot of your work seeks to create immersive, experiential learning performances. What led to this focus?
​We, as human beings do not exist as merely physical automata in a sterile world, rather we are sensitive, responsive, emergent bodies, hearts and minds, held in time and space. CCK wish to acknowledge this in the ways in which it interacts with other sentient beings, encouraging the bringing in and drawing out of  palpable, somatic experience to the fore, to support our shared learning from our environments and with each other.​
Children – and our inner child – yearns for and learns from interactive play with its environment. It is natural to us. It is how we learn best. We feel that an environment focused upon the constraints of text alone, often in a uni-directional flow, does nothing to enhance learning and remembering what one might have learned just previously. By using as many of our senses we enhance our learning and recall and offer ourselves the joy, the pleasure, of interacting more deliberately with our whole environments, including each other and the small, overlooked parts of ourselves and our lives.
This is how we have gained the pleasure of learning and sharing knowledge and experience in our worlds and we can do no other but to pass it on as part of co-nourishing.

What role can such journeys play in supporting us to build more resilient communities?

​When we grow our capacities to act collectively, such as we can do in Journeys of nourishing through co-production, we inevitably grow closer and more aware of each other. This is what CCK wishes to encourage and cultivate amongst all that we engage with.
As we learn to function by drawing upon a wider range of capacities than we might normally be inclined to, we​ cultivate in ourselves a broader set of living strategies. These strategies are interconnected with different aspects of our own selves in time and space, with others over times and spaces and with time and space itself.
This confers resilience because it supports us to become more adaptable by being able to access the nourishing connections we have built both within ourselves and  between ourselves and others. Why would we not desire for this to be the state of affairs for all people, across all times?
By Journeying, and recognising ourselves as ‘Journeypeople’, constantly growing in one way or another, even beyond our own imagined limitations – those of death, sickness or marginality, we become agents of progress and thriving-in-situ. We become beings of wider, deeper, more resourceful capacities because it has become natural to us to be fed by our whole environments; as well as to offer ‘feeding’ to all that surrounds us in a myriad of ways. We know that all we take in and give out, in integrity, is food – is nourishment.
Being in co-productivity of this way of nourishing creates and maintains community – that of geography, interest, but above all, the great community of Earth-beings, who can express the collective, intelligently nourishing expression of thriving to enhance the collective nourishment of all life.

With Earth Blessings

Mama D

WHY FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IS ALSO ABOUT THE SOVEREIGN SOIL

FSarticle banner

WHY FOOD SOVEREIGNTY IS ALSO ABOUT THE SOVEREIGN SOIL

by Mama D of Community Centred Knowledge

Tweet @indigenousknow

Associated movie: http://www.symphonyofthesoil.com/

When we, as Earth’s inhabitants, gain a clear understanding of the roots of Food Sovereignty and its role in bringing freedom from systems of food oppression to cultivators of the Global South, we will stand a greater chance of also understanding how well aligned it is with the call for all of humankind to take better care of the fragile skin that adorns the planet: this skin is called the soil.

Food Sovereignty exists as a statement of clearly articulated rights in the face of economic and political and cultural oppression and it militates against the structures – legal, political and economic – that arose out of colonisation, slavery and ‘entrepreneurial’ adventurism in the Global South, chiefly undertaken by men of means from the Global North.

It does not remain a Southern phenomenon, however, as the systems of resource or ‘capital’ control, developed out of these oppressions, have found themselves repeated in every act of enclosure of the commons and the labour of the common people. They manifest themselves in industrialised and exploitative forms of production, witnessed globally: North and South.

Food, then, becomes a totemic symbol of an act of resistance that implicates all of us, because we all eat food.

Soil, as the main substrate in which food is grown, might be seen as a key stakeholder, a foundational actor, a fundamental base and key variable in food sovereignty. This is especially the case for indigenous cultures which interface with the land in multi-dimensional ways and which confer on aspects of the land, such as the soil, rivers and mountains, personalities, which demand respect and consideration.

soil

The Nyoongar, of the Perth region of Australia, for example, rubbed soil into their armpits so that it would take on their smell. The soil was then released back to the land.  This told the ancestral spirits about the person asking for the protection while travelling on the land.1

Other indigenous cultures observe soil-based rituals in recognition of its vital nature, which is regarded as transformative: the active womb of the earth, a portal for ancestral spirits.

We bury our nearest and dearest, upon transition from life, into the soil. We have done so for centuries, back to the first peoples. We also plant our seed in the same act of reverence and hope for rebirth.

From the soil emerges the life that we all depend upon. For this reason food sovereignty has a direct relationship with an empowered and empowering engagement with the soil. The right to interact with the land and soil in ways that respect it, in deep concordance with the time honoured ways of grower communities and families.

everyone-together-2

La Via Campesina, an international movement of small-scale farmers, dependent upon their production systems for their livelihoods, speaks of food sovereignty, in context, as an act of resistance:

‘The principle of food sovereignty promotes the development of alternative production, distribution and consumption models based on a new logic, far removed from that of neo-liberalism which has always given the central role to markets and trade liberalisation, and which considers that only international markets can solve the problem of food insecurity.’

Nyéléni 2007 – Forum for Food Sovereignty. 23rd – 27th February 2007. Sélingué. Mali

Food Sovereignty, as a term, has been adopted and adapted by many actors to suit their own circumstances, as indeed has been advocated by the architects of it to date, but the essential meaning expressed at the Nyéléni 2007 Forum for Food Sovereignty is about:

“PEOPLES’ food sovereignty which is to be defined by social movements. It is a “vehicle”, a carrier, for our collective political project and our joint strategies and actions regarding food production and consumption at all levels.”

http://nyeleni.org/IMG/pdf/TOWARDS_A_FOOD_SOVEREIGNTY_ACTION_AGENDAII.pdf

The statement below from Nyéléni has been distilled into seven pillars which are captured below it:

“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users.

Food sovereignty prioritises local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal – fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes and generations.

In Nyéléni, through numerous debates and interactions, we are deepening our collective understanding of food sovereignty and learning about the realities of the struggles of our respective movements to retain autonomy and regain our powers. We now understand better the tools we need to build our movement and advance our collective vision.”

Pillars:

  • Focus on Food for People
  • Value Food Providers
  • Localize Food Systems
  • Put Control Locally
  • Build Knowledge and Skills
  • Work with Nature
  • (Recognize That Food Is Sacred )
Food Sovereignty thus highlights the extent of the damage that the industrial, transnational systems of food production distribution and consumption have meted out on the global South’s food systems. It does not stop there but continues to inflict what can only be called punishment on all the indigenous farming systems of the world that hitherto existed. These are ones which have sought to use mindful and traditional practices for land and soil management and more natural systems of working with the land, including all those practices described under the banner of agroecology.

bannerfromlaviacampesina

One instrument of these ‘industrialising’ oppressions was, and remains, the imposition on entire cultures and environments of machine based and technophilic ‘solutions’ of industrial agriculture. These involve large scale cultivation of the land in the pursuit of financial profit alone, for the privileged few, yet with the stated objective of ‘feeding the world’ and contributing to its ‘food security’.

I say cultivation, but to cultivate something does not involve imposing upon it practices which cause it to become denuded of its nutrient base; exposed to the unforgiving elements and transformed into a mere substrate upon which to act out vainglorious actualisation of laboratory driven and finance focussed projects and programmes, does it?

This is especially the case when such projects do not actually nurture or feed the populations who formerly had full access to the land, and who are now rendered landless and unemployed. Those who are now bereft of the land upon which their entire culture was based are, in this manner, denuded of so much more, in so many other, tangible, but also less easily measurable ways.

This is where we begin to understand that soil is a fundamental variable in bringing land – and people – into optimal production, reproduction and relationship, not only of goods, but also of life itself.

Land is productive, not only when it yields a fantastic number of kilos of product per hectare but also when it supports a rich and varied array of life, human and non-human; when it is referenced in the development of abundant cultural forms and when it is enabled to interface with other land-dependent, natural assets in ways that continue to replenish it and keep it in a mode of resilience, secure for future generations and for reuse by the present generation.

market

Soil, the chief asset of the land which life requires in order for continuity, is not only a site of production but also one of reproduction. It enables the rich interplay of micro to macro organisms including humankind. It is the cultural base of our identities, and the material base of many of our arts and sciences. Without it we are nothing but fragile sentience upon the earth.

If land is our Father, then Earth, as soil, is our mother, whose womb we currently desecrate in search of supremacy of a most volatile kind: a separated existence as paper gods of a concrete earth.

Our connection with real food is predicated upon a reliance upon and the existence of real soil and the real agroecologically sound methods of cultivating this soil. This is so that it may be sustainably and reliably the source of our future realities upon the planet.

As it is said by our ancients: As above, so below. The very reason for the existence of calls for food sovereignty from the Global South must not be lost in the current clamouring for food growing rights in the Global North. These two ‘offspring’ are umbilically connected to the one Earth upon which we all stand. The basis for nutrition of the one is the same as for the other. The soil of each land must remain a sovereign asset, the knowledge of which is understood and shared within community and in so doing becomes located in the knowledge base of each community member and within each of the indigenous groups who have had longest association with that land and soil. It must be taught and learned by the ensuing generations.

This is a right that must be respected, as must the ability of people to secure their rights of soil stewardship through sound, agroecological practice which make sense of the delicately balanced relationship of animal, plant and soil.

The dance of life within traditional or innovative, but necessarily sound, growing systems is based upon a song, a call, or even a symphony of sovereignty that all who have ears must hear, if listening is what we are called upon to do, for our common survival.

1 http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/spirituality/aboriginal-people-expressing-spirituality#axzz3p0XYj2R5

This post was first blogged on http://www.cfgn.org.uk/ by Mama D October 20, 2015

A Synchrony of Organic Interdependent Livity: S.O.I.L

Women from the Mbini Self-Help Group showing off the fields

A SYNCHRONY OF ORGANIC INTERDEPENDENT LIVITY: S.O.I.L.

by Mama D, Community Centred Knowledge @IndigenousKnow

I am a mother and, in relative terms, recently sourced from the African continent. As a woman, and an African, I am present, but without voice. Most of the time, unseen and unheard. Yet, my essential being represents that which gives, over eternities, but remains unacknowledged. It is also that for which there is no gratitude shown. Just like the soil we walk upon. Such things have consequences.

The first year of the ‘United Nations Decade for People of African Descent’ (2015-2024), is also the ‘United Nations Year of the Soil’ (2015).

I hold this not to be a co-incidence.

Women from the Mbini Self-Help Group showing off the fields

These two subjects of United Nations recognition: African people and the soils of Earth, are the twin, invisible presences at the root of much of the world’s prosperity.

There is reason for saying this. The labour and sacrifices of Africans have both directly and indirectly enabled, and fuelled, the productivity of industrial growth and the associated western knowledge revolutions.

For the most part, the same can be said of the poorly understood soil. It has been and continues to be exploited, unreasonably to the point of dissolution and in places, complete disappearance. What shall we call this? Pedocide? Lithocide?

Despite this, global politics continues to take both for granted. Each remains understated as an icon of what is good in the world. The People and produce of Africa, and the soils of the world, continue to contribute to global well-being. It ought to be a matter of global shame that these contributions are still insufficiently charted, documented or taught to the masses.

Such poor recording has led to a great deal of misunderstanding amongst the general populace about the critical importance of a vibrant African people or the healthy soil.

In the absence of knowledge, ignorance festers!

Who, then, will see cause to take steps to address their misinformation? Who will seek out appropriate knowledge and action? Are we too embattled by our own blindness to see our way out of the disasters we thereby create?

This is a pertinent question if we wish to stem the collapse of global well-being as we currently know it.

I am not being dramatic. The language concerning soil loss as 2015 loomed and began has been dramatic. This piece is too short for me to repeat it here.

photo 2 (2)

If we are restless at the mention of food security and climate change, then we had better be fretful of a scenario of disappearing soils. We might well worry also at the loss of the traditional expertise to manage such fragile landscapes. It is especially so where it can be demonstrated that these tradition soil ‘husbandmen’ have proven resilient under oppressive circumstances.

We may be aware of roving corporate capitalism, looking for ever new opportunities to exploit and ravage land and people. La Via Campensina holds a torch for peasant resistances in ‘Latin’ America, Vandana Shiva lights up radicalism in India; for African people during this decade who will ignite the imagination of the world, one which connects all of the indigenous peoples of the globe? In this respect, African growers must be encouraged to share their ways of stewarding the land and their relationship with the soil lore with each other and with growers everywhere and their insights and experiences given recognition for life-affirming connections to be restored. It is good that African Soil Stories form a foundation for the African Story.

Photo0245

There is ancestral, intuitive knowledge, that the clay of my being, so close in colouring to that of the Earth, is a living, walking, and animated being. It is for only a span of a lifetime separated from the dust of the Earth, to perform a sacred, stewardship role.

I am as the soil on the massive surface of this vast organic, living entity. Like a protective cover for a good 30 per cent of the world’s surface. I am a kin to this medium – which ranges, in depth, from a few crumbs – to a few metres. I represent both the living, pulsating potential as well as the parent body that feeds much of what is yielded by the land.

Whist I attended my inner-city, secondary school, we were taught, in science, that soil was one of those things that should be listed under non-living materials.

Soil was to be thought of as dead, inanimate, made from rock, substantially, and so not a thing which breathed, ate, moved or reproduced. How wrong they were!

I felt this in my very bones. From childhood, I had been closely observing my grandmother tend the back-garden soil to produce extraordinary crops with merely the magic of her care. Sweetcorn, squashes and beetroot, carrots, potatoes and calalloo, all emerged from the richly dark, moving substrate; alive with micro-life which seemed to proliferate and creep into areas of garden I thought to be unproductive!

Photo0307

Children, and I was no exception, often use the dark soil of London as a key ingredient of mud ‘pies’. Does it resemble for them the nutritious ‘stew’ that it actually is? I studied the pathways of worms and ants. I loved the squishy and crumbly nature of the London, clayey loams and so I was often to be found digging around the ‘compost tip’ at the top of the garden, marvelling at the transformations taking place there.

Where comfrey grew were buried the foundations of my every present aspiration which were found in the shreddings of notebooks and the remains of Sunday dinner preparation and other ‘house wastes’.

It was from this transformed soil that I was almost literally fed until, late in teenager-hood; I left home to more rural parts of the country to learn the cycles of cows and sheep and the tyranny of tractors.

The Shaman, Malidoma Patrice Some speaks of the ritual immersion of the young person in the red soil of his village, as one of the necessary precursors to manhood amongst the Dagara of West Africa. It is where one gains possession of oneself through transformation. Moving from a burial to a resurrection in which one becomes ‘alive’ to one’s own, divine direction.

Soil

So my garden gave birth to me, one who was eventually to travel to the welcoming villages of Africa to discover the importance of interdependence. To learn, sometimes the hard way, of the necessary relationships of each living thing upon another, the impossibility of separation and the fundamental wrongness of living in and from a pathology of independence.

Increasingly what I hear coming out the voice of the Earth is a call to listen to the connecting places, that which is less visible, more silent, barely felt, scarcely sensed. We must re-attune our radars for better receptivity, for what is out there and all around us has lessons for us to both acknowledge and celebrate.

Let this year be the year of our truly seeing what is core to all of us: the African within and without and the soil at our feet. Maybe if we listen carefully enough and become immersed, we will hear and experience our own personal calls to action.

Mama D

@Indigenousknow